It all started with the above photograph from 1944. Author John Thomas, a law professor and musician, in the preface to his new book Kalamazoo Gals: A Story of Extraordinary Women & Gibson's "Banner" Guitars of WWII, writes :"I can no longer recall just how I stumbled upon this photograph. But I do know that it haunted me for some years. I printed it out, pinned it up on the cork board on my office wall, and found my attention drawn to it more often than I care to admit"
And so the journey began to find out who these girls were, posing in front of Gibson Guitar's Kalamazoo, MI, factory. And what of the "banner" guitars? I met up with Thomas recently at Brooklyn's Retrofret Guitars.
Above: At Retrofret Guitars in Brooklyn, John Thomas consults with Mamie Minch, Head of Repair, who inspects and does minor repairs on one of his three Gibson “banner” guitars.
Jenny Snow - Worked at Gibson (1943-53)
'Jenny didn't wind the fine wire around the core wires of what we call the wound strings that are used for a guitar's four lowest strings."I was just too nervous for that, I guess." But she did coil the completed strings and place them in wrappers and then in boxes. "A gross of strings is 144. It was 20 gross plus" When I ask what "20 gross plus" means, she tells me that that was how many strings she could coil in a day. "I told you I was fast."' [Page 69]
Here's John going in detail about each of the three guitars.
1) 1943 LG01, one of only 139 ever shipped, 2) 1943 Southerner Jumbo that went to WWII, 3) Rare 1943 L-50 with a "Banner"
A companion CD to "Kalamazoo Gals" is coming out on March 15th. Here's John, and co-producer, Eric Dawson Tate, talking about what lead to his producing "The Light Still Burns"